My Annual Review: 2016 Edition

Welcome to another year! This post marks my 3rd year for writing an annual review. Often we get so busy pushing ourselves up the mountain, always looking ahead that we don’t stop to look behind us, seeing how far we’ve come. This annual review process forces me to stop, reflect and be grateful for the year, while choosing how best to move forward into a new year.

Disclaimer: I write reviews mainly for myself to learn from, to show people what’s possible in a year and also to hopefully help people learn from my mistakes.

Being able to look back on my 2015 review article is really fun and reminds me how far I’ve come in only a year. If you haven’t, you should write your own Year in Review article. (If you do, post it in the comment section so everyone else can read it.)

For this review I’ll cover:

Here were the public goals I stated in my review last year:

Business

  • Grow BestSelf 3X and sell 50,000 journals
    Done! And then some 🙂
  • Build my LittleMight email list to 5,000
    At 4,875 I’m only 125 subscribers short of my initial goal. However, I put very little time into growing my LittleMight list this year due to working almost solely on BestSelf Co so I feel fine with this.

Personal:

  • Write 1,000 words per day
    It started off well… but dwindled after 5 months. Going to reestablish in 2017.
  • Send daily personal message/email to someone I care about
    Turned into more of a weekly thing than daily. I think I’ll stick with this amount.
  • Take 1 day a month off work for reflection and planning
    Failed at this. While I did reflect, I think I would benefit from taking more time off and disengaging from everything.

Highlights

  • Jan: Attending Tony Robbins Business Mastery
  • Feb: 24-hour Challenge in Nashville creating Slingshot with Bryan Harris
  • March: Validated, Created and Launched From Zero to Funded course!
  • April: Working on Bernie Sanders campaign
  • May: Attended first trade show!
  • June: Winning Shopify Build a Business award & my Chicago trip with Katya
  • July: Summit mountain for Baby Bathwater event
  • August: Ringing the NYSE bell and the Gatsby mansion event with Shopify
  • Sept: Filming in NYC for Videofruit & Alabama for SELF Mastery Academy then SumoCon!
  • Oct: Got a new puppy, Casey Jones!
  • Nov: Daymond John joint venture launch and finalist for Forbes 30 for 30 (also turned 30 at end of Nov, promptly disqualifying me lolz)
  • Dec: Going to Australia on a family trip.

 

1

What Did Go Well

1. Business growth + Team

This year represented a huge change for me as it was the year I became a boss, CEO, whatever you want to call it – and not just of myself! In just a year since launching BestSelf Co store on Shopify we grew our email list to 145,000 and did seven figures in revenue (over 2.4 M). Most importantly, our team grew from just Allen and myself to around ten people (between full-time and contractors.) I even got myself an executive assistant, Michee, who has become my external brain/problem-solver. Lifesaver!

Being responsible for a team is a double-edged sword, it’s stressful and puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as you make decisions, not just for you and a partner, but a whole team of people. However, the pro list way outweigh the cons as we would not have been able to grow without these incredible people. One of my favorite moments of the year was in December, the day before I left for my month long trip to Australia I sat down and wrote bonus checks to each team member. Probably the best checks I ever wrote!

Takeaway: The best investment is both in yourself and your people! Looking forward to doing more of it this year.

2. From Zero to Funded launch

I launched the initial round of my crowdfunding course which meant I validated it, pre-sold the course and then created the content. I’m going to be working in 2017 to improve and tweak the course as I test strategies, and also show people how to not only crowdfund their idea but how to build a sustainable business after crowdfunding.

A huge win for me with this project was being able to see people fund their dreams. Elena was my first student to go live with her project Rebel Girls, she asked for $40,000 on Kickstarter and went on to raise $675,000 in funding. As of January 2017, she’s done well over $1,000,000 in sales – epic. My next student to launch was Elizabeth of Little Nomad, who raised over $104,000 in funding and has some very big and exciting things on the horizon.

If you want to get in on the next class opening you can join the waitlist here.

3. An Overseas Trip to a Faraway Land!

For the first time in several years, I took an extended holiday to a new place — Australia! My little brother is living over there for two years, so Keith and I flew out for Christmas, my mum flew from Ireland, and we had an Australian family Christmas together. For almost a whole month I was living in the future! We went paddleboarding on Christmas Eve, skydiving, snorkeling off Lady Elliot Island which we were taken to by prop plane, New Year’s Eve in Sydney watching the fireworks… it was the trip of a lifetime.

While I can’t say I didn’t do any work while I was there, I did take some much needed time off and came back refreshed, ready to crush 2017. I’m very grateful to have a business partner in Allen who steered the ship while I was gone, nevermind encouraged me to really switch off and be present with my family.

What Didn’t Go Well

Bad Hiring

I know I put team building in the ‘What went well’ section, but those were the one’s that stuck. Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard the term Hire Slow, Fire Fast until we’d already done the opposite, we hired fast and fired slowly. We hired quickly because we were reactive, trying to handle growth and bringing people on as soon as possible without giving them adequate training to be able to succeed in the role. I know now that this is the worst possible way to hire someone, for both yourself and the person you hire.

Operations

This goes along with hiring, but I’m putting it in it’s own section. For BestSelf Co Operations has been the toughest role we’ve found to fill. Why? Because when we started the hiring process, we looked in places where people like us would hang out, mainly entrepreneurs (uh-oh!). In retrospect this didn’t make sense as what we needed was someone who lived and breathed the operations role, someone who enjoyed being behind-the-scenes keeping things running smoothly. The people we hired were entrepreneurs with their own aspirations, and it wasn’t in operations, to grow to the scale we want these were not productive hires for the long-term growth of the company. However, each person served their purpose for that short time.

We’ve learned from those rookie hiring mistakes and before beginning the hiring process this last time we did a lot of research into the skill of hiring and finding A-players for operations. This paid off as the caliber of applicants were higher and most importantly, skilled in the roles of operations and organization.

Book resource: Who: The A Method for Hiring


Unproductive time spent on Politics/News/Social Media

I would hate to count the hours of how much wasted time was devoted to the circus that was this year’s US presidential election. I don’t mean volunteering or work done, I mean on bullshit like engaging on Facebook posts, reading mindless articles and everything that went along with it. It was an election different than any other (so I’m told), but I wish it had not taken my attention from things that were actually in my control to change.

In November I made the choice to take Twitter and Facebook apps off my phone to stop myself from procrastinating, as well as having Newsfeed Eradicator installed to cut out my news feed. The lack of social media apps on my phone has been a big help as now I have to log in on my phone browser to procrastinate, the annoyance of this logging in process often stops me altogether.

 

Travel

  • Palm Beach, Florida – Business Mastery Conference
  • Nashville, TN — work with Bryan Harris on Slingshot
  • Chicago, IL — Fun trip
  • Powder Mountain, Utah – Baby Bathwater mastermind
  • Birmingham, AL — Spend 4 days for a video shoot with BestSelf and Armosa Studios (great people!)
  • Orlando, Florida – Team retreat and Content & Commerce Conference
  • Long Island, NY – Gatsby Mansion for Shopify
  • Austin, TX — SumoCon
  • Australia – family trip beginning in Dec, visited Sydney, Brisbane, Noosa, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Whitsunday Islands, Melbourne

 

2

Extra Stuff

Spartan Race

In June 2016 I ran my first obstacle course this year as a challenge for myself, it would force me to keep working out and looked like fun — it was! The only thing I wish I’d done differently was sign up for another one immediately after as once I was finished I took it easy and let my fitness habit slip. My goal is to do 3 obstacle races this year to make up for it.

Bernie Sanders Campaign

In my spare time (ha!) I volunteered for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign up until the end of June. Despite not making it as the democratic nominee I am still so glad I carved out the time to do it. Not only did I learn a ton about marketing, but I also did a lot of things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone which is always a good thing — it’s where growth happens!

Favorite Products of 2016

Before I buy new things I ask myself “Will this make my life easier, more enjoyable or save me time?”, if yes I’ll buy it. The following products are my favorite purchases of the year:

1. Bose headphones

bose1Never felt the need for expensive headphones until these… and now I realize what I was missing. These Bluetooth headphones are incredible, the noise canceling is excellent for travel, I can connect to my phone and my laptop at one time, and with the built-in mic, I can do calls easily.

2. Nutri Ninja Blender

Another product I use multiple times a day, between my bulletproof coffee in the AM, to blending eggs for an omelet (for ultra-smoothness) to making quick shakes — no brainer.

3. Sunrise Simulation Alarm clock

For as long back as I can remember I’ve been using my phone for an alarm, however I stopped when I realized setting my alarm quickly turned into a Facebook wormhole. This alarm clock doesn’t jolt me awake; rather the sunrise simulation allows me to wake slowly and feel well rested – highly recommend.

4. Peloton bike

bike-angled-1162I fell in love with the business model for this company before I ever bought anything. They sell you an expensive piece of equipment and then get you onto subscription for the content to ensure it doesn’t turn into a clothes horse. It’s incredible.

My most expensive purchase of the year was the Peloton bike, an at home stationary bike that you can attended live classes on as well as tons of on-demand class content. During winter it’s a struggle to make it to the gym, so this was the perfect solution, now I can do a 30 min class of a high intensity workout and be back to work within 5-10 mins whereas having to go to the gym would regularly mean an addition 30-45mins of wasted time.

I calculated that the cost of attending 66 live spin classes would be the same as buying the bike, so my plan is to have completed those by March 31st, 2017 if I keep up the 3-4 times per week schedule thereby paying off the investment.

If you want to pick one up, buy off this link and you’ll get 2 months of free content (and so will I) — win win!

5. 27″ External HP Monitor

Needed a high-res monitor that also looked sexy but didn’t want to go for the outdated and expensive Mac display. I picked up this screen for less than $300, and it’s been perfect!

Goals for 2017

I grabbed this framework from Noah Kagan here.

Word of the year: Exponential

Work:
1. $X million revenue goal
2. 3 Retreats with the team
3. Speak at 3 events
4. 15 Successful students of From Zero to Funded course

Workout:
1. 4 x workouts a week
2. 2 x Obstacle courses/or races

Personal:
1. Write a fiction book
2. Get my driving license (yes I’m 3o, but I live in New York)
3. Plan a weekend trip away every quarter

 

Hope you had an amazing 2016 and that your 2017 is off to a great start.

Hit reply in the comments and tell me how your year went!

Cathryn Lavery

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